Tallmadge and Wadsworth separated themselves from the rest of the Suburban League last year.
Can the Blue Devils and Grizzlies do it again in 2012?
It’s possible, but Copley, Green and Highland appear to be improved and ready to offer more resistance.
“Tallmadge, you obviously have to look at them,” Wadsworth coach Greg Dennison said. “They won it last year and return a lot of players. I think top to bottom it is going to be very competitive this year in the Suburban League.”
Copley senior Aregeros Turner returns after suffering a broken right leg in October last year and gives the Indians one of the best running backs in the state.
“Aregeros is certainly going to be a big part of what we do,” Copley coach Ron Viscounte said. “He is absolutely 100 percent. He has even gained a little bit of speed. He ran a 4.41 [40-yard dash] down at Ohio State’s camp this summer. He is full go and we are counting on him to make plays.”
Tallmadge went 9-3 overall last year, 7-0 in league play, and made the Division II state playoffs for the seventh time in the past eight years.
“We have a group of seniors that are very close knit,” Tallmadge coach Joe Vassalotti said. “We have 24 of them, which is a large group for us. A lot of them have had varsity time on teams that have been very successful and advanced to the playoffs.
“We do have to replace our leading receiver [Tucker Linder], leading running back [Tyrin Williams] and top offensive lineman [Jon Cipa] and our entire defensive line. We graduated some very good players, but we have 12 starters returning.”
Seniors Anthony Gotto and Jacob Wood return along with senior twin brothers Zach Skraba and Cordt Skraba and junior Davis Moore.
“I think Tallmadge is going to be the team to beat,” Viscounte said. “Joe does a great job with those kids and they seem to just reload. Gotto is back at quarterback and he is a very gifted player. He presents problems for defenses.”
Wadsworth made an impressive postseason run in Division I last year and finished 11-2, 6-1. The Grizzlies, playoff participants in three of the past five years, graduated 23 seniors, including tailback Jack Snowball and lineman Nick Tavanello.
Nick Seme, Matt Alic and Kegan Long are key seniors for the Grizzlies. Martice Jackson is a junior to watch.
“Obviously inexperience is the issue that we have to work through,” Dennison said. “We feel good about the kids we have.”
Copley and Green each went 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the league last year.
“Skill-wise, we are going to certainly cause problems to other teams,” Viscounte said. “We need to develop more up front on both sides of the ball. We’re not necessarily young, but I would say we’re new in the defensive backfield because we had seniors in the defensive backfield last year. Our linebacking corps will be very solid, and I think with the addition of [senior Firestone transfer] Josh Brebant our kicking game will be very solid.”
Green features seniors Christian DiLauro, Jamie Dawson, Jake Albert, Ronnie Brant and Mazen Hasan.
“The strength of the team is the returning players we have along the offensive and defensive lines,” Green coach Ed Cybak said. “Our goal is to be in the hunt for a league title. I think our kids are really looking forward to the challenge. All of the teams in this league are well coached.”
Highland made the Division II state playoffs last year and finished 6-5, 3-4. Austin Adams, Mark Vitko, David Barnum, Ricky Esker and Joe Simonis are a few of their top seniors this year.
“I think we have a solid core of seniors supplemented by some good underclassmen,” Highland coach Tom Lombardo said. “The senior leadership has been outstanding this summer and during two-a-days. We have probably about as much depth as we have since I have been here. The kids have a great attitude and are really excited for this season.”
Nordonia could be a surprise team with first-year coach Jeff Fox taking over after serving as offensive coordinator for the past seven seasons at his alma mater,Willoughby South.
“Coming in new, I can tell you that this program is not a traditional 2-8 takeover,” Fox said. “There is plenty of pride, talent and a tradition of winning at Nordonia. We are ahead of where I thought we would be at this point. The kids are very excited and working hard every day.”
Fox said he will rely on senior captains Nick Rezek, Tyler Alders and Marcus Murray to lead with their production on the field and vocally, as well.
Bob Lake returns to coach Cloverleaf after serving as an assistant at Archbishop Hoban and at the University of Akron. He was the Colts’ coach from 1986-1999.
“I think our strength is in our skill,” Lake said. “We have some outstanding skill with [seniors] Rob Buchwald, J.D. Schleich and some of the other guys. We have to improve along our offensive and defensive lines.”
Revere coach Phil Heyn is relying on seniors Jason Tretter and Paul Gabel to help the Minutemen improve.
“We are going to be big, strong and be able to run the ball,” Heyn said. “We are experienced along the front line and experienced in the backfield. We are excited about that. We need some other skilled players to step up and make plays for us.
“Our defense is a in similar situation. We have some experience at linebacker and along the line. We have a young secondary that needs to step up, mature and grow in a hurry.”